28 March 2014
No. 1616


ICRISAT and Zimbabwe strengthen partnership for food and nutrition security

Dr Joseph Made, Honorable Agriculture Minister of Zimbabwe (6th from left) and other officials, with the ICRISAT delegation led by Dr CLL Gowda.

“The Zimbabwe government will support ICRISAT’s initiatives to create an environment of sustained cereals production for both human consumption and livestock feed. This is to boost production of crops like sorghum and millet, considered as smart and climate-resilient crops, which is critical in addressing the effects of climate change in the country,” said Dr Joseph Made, Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Zimbabwe.

The Minister expressed this commitment to work with ICRISAT in supporting public seed companies to invest in groundnut, sorghum and millet seed production during the recent visit of an ICRISAT delegation led by Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General for Research to Zimbabwe. Dr Gowda conveyed to the Minister, a message from Director General Dr William Dar on ICRISAT’s commitment to further strengthen its research for development (R4D) initiatives in Zimbabwe.

ICRISAT will now be expanding activities in the country in line with recent CGIAR reforms that have opened up funding opportunities to the region. ICRISAT’s activities will be in line with the government of Zimbabwe’s agricultural goal to enhance food and nutrition security.

“Our work will maintain a systems perspective to also include the importance of crop-livestock integration in semi-arid regions of Zimbabwe. We are also looking at new initiatives in introducing chickpea in the lowveld regions,” Dr Gowda emphasized. He also informed the Minister that ICRISAT will be strengthening the capacity of its center at Matopos with additional staff, and place more effort in research work on groundnut, sorghum, and pearl millet.

Dr CLL Gowda receiving a gift from Dr J Made.
Photo: K Mazvimavi, ICRISAT

On groundnut, ICRISAT’s plan is to take Zimbabwe back to its “glory days” of competitive groundnut production and marketing in the region. This initiative has already been started with seed support from ICRISAT Malawi. The plan was welcomed by the Minister given the importance of the legume as a strategic income crop as well as potential food in the country’s rural communities.

The Minister also expressed appreciation of ICRISAT’s R4D efforts in the country over the past decade especially at a time of serious economic challenges. He indicated his government’s interest in supporting the genebank at Matopos and emphasized its strategic role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Offering a message of goodwill, he extended an invitation on behalf of the government of Zimbabwe for Dr Dar to visit the country, and expressed keen interest in visiting the ICRISAT headquarters in India.

Drs Moses Siambi, Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa; Kizito Mazvimavi, Head of Impact Assessment Office; and Andre van Rooyen, ICRISAT Country Representative in Zimbabwe participated in the visit along with Dr Gowda.

The delegation also met with heads of different programs at the Department of Research and Specialist Services - Zimbabwe. Mrs Danisile Hikwa, Principal Director of the Department led the meetings and identifed potential areas for enhanced collaboration with ICRISAT.

“The Department would want to continue collaborative work on sorghum and millet breeding, and to expand the ongoing crop-livestock projects. The initiatives on chickpea are important to the department, but require assistance from ICRISAT scientists,” Mrs Hikwa said. She also expressed particular interest in areas of value addition in small grains in line with ICRISAT’s Agribusiness Incubation Program.

The ICRISAT delegation likewise met with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Country Representative, Dr Chimimba David Phiri, to discuss further areas for partnership.

FAO-Zimbabwe is expanding technical support services to agricultural development, and Dr Phiri indicated that his program staff will identify specific needs for technical support from ICRISAT.

At a dinner hosted for partners in Harare, the European Union Ambassador Mr Aldo Dell’Ariccia and the Permanent Secretary Mr R J Chitsiko commended ICRISAT’s efforts and commitment to improve food and nutrition security and provide better technological options for enhanced agricultural development in semi-arid regions of Zimbabwe.

The event was also attended by Ms Lilian Kujeke-Goliati of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, Dr Sibiniso Moyo from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Mr Joseph Gondo, Head of Extension Services, Mr R T Faranisi, Director-Protocol; Dr Claid Mujaju, Head of Seed Services; and Dr C Mguni, Director of Research Services.

Dr Gowda joined other senior ICRISAT staff Dr Rajesh Agrawal, Assistant Director General, Financial Services; Mr Sharat Kumar, Director, Human Resources and Operations; and Mr M Prabhakar Reddy, Program Leader, Farm, Engineering and Transport Services, on their visit to the ICRISAT Center at Matopos Research Station and interacted with Dr Shadreck Ncube, Head of the station.

“The dust has hardly settled after last week’s visit by the high powered delegation from the ICRISAT headquarters, and already it had significant outcomes. The visit was crucial in maintaining a positive flow of information and creating interfaces between management and local support staff. Numerous issues were addressed during the visit. There is a new buzz in the corridors, and local staff and scientists appreciated the effort and commitment made by the colleagues from the headquarters. They extended sincere gratitude for the support from the ICRISAT headquarters,” Dr A Rooyen said.  

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African Market Garden improves incomes of women farmers in Niger

Women farmers displaying onions harvested under the program. Photo: H Boureima, ICRISAT

Women farmers of Niger’s Banizoumbou village, located 70 km northeast of Niamey in Dantchandou commune, celebrated the second African Market Garden site harvest in the village on 11 March.

At the event, the association shared the results of the African Market Garden project with partners and guests, highlighting the US$5,400 savings it made in the previous year which is currently being used to procure equipment, seeds, fertilizer and pesticides.

About 50 women farmers are currently carrying out dry season vegetable production, using water from a pond formed from the flow of an uncapped artesian well. Until two years ago they were short of tools and equipment and lacked technical knowledge, managerial and social organization skills. To overcome those challenges, the Banizoumbou Village, African Market Garden (BV-AMG) project was formulated with a joint effort by the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), NGOs ADLI and Vie Kande Ni Bayra, and ICRISAT.

ICRISAT developed the low-cost system ‘African Market Garden’ that greatly reduces the drudgery of hand-carrying water while increasing the water-use efficiency of these gardens through gravity-driven drip irrigation. Combined with improved vegetables interspersed between date palms, the African Market Garden is a real income accelerator.

The BV-AMG project helped women farmers in Banizoumbou take advantage of the favorable environmental and market conditions. It aims to establish 1.5 ha of African Market Garden to promote income generation and food security and improve the standard of living of women and their families.

To achieve its objectives, the Banizoumbou Women’s Association partnered with ICRISAT seeking assistance on technical planning and coordination of activities, supervision of drip irrigation installation, training of the technical supervisors and farmers, and technical monitoring services for the first two years of the project life.

Mr AD Allahoury (Left) holding onions harvested in Banizoumbou village. Photo: H Boureima, ICRISAT

In attendance at the site harvest were Mr Amadou Diallo Allahoury, High Commissioner for the 3N Initiative (Nigerians Nourish Nigeriens), Mr Amadou Ouattara, Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), local officials, and representatives of NGOs. ICRISAT was represented by Mr Saidou Abdoussalam, Research Assistant.

“I am confident that this initiative will expand in other regions of the country,” Dr AD Allahoury said.

With the success of the African Market Garden, the FAO also expressed its interest to discuss opportunities of collaboration with ICRISAT.

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Kenya’s TV show Shamba Shape Up features ‘Healthy Groundnuts’

Screen capture: Dr Njoroge (Right) with the Shamba Shape Up host.

To raise awareness on aflatoxin contamination among groundnut farmers, ICRISAT’s Dr Samuel MC Njoroge, Scientist (Legume/Cereal Pathology), went on Kenya’s highly popular farming TV show, Shamba Shape Up earlier this week.

In the first episode of the TV show’s fourth season titled ‘Healthy Groundnuts’, Dr Njoroge offered advice to farmers on groundnut production and also suggested improvements that will not only result in higher yields, but also reduce aflatoxin exposure. The data generated from this exercise is helping the ICRISAT team to further improve aflatoxin-related messaging.

With over seven million viewers across three countries in Africa, Shamba Shape Up is an important channel to reach out to smallholder farmers. For farmers in Kenya, the TV show offers additional support by providing free-of-charge information flyers that can be requested by sending a text message. Farmers can also pose queries through text messages to which experts would respond in just under 48 hours.

Aimed at East Africa’s rapidly growing rural audience, the makeover style TV show aims to give both farmer and audience the tools they need to improve productivity and income on their farms. The show’s team visits a farm each week in different areas of the country and involves experts from partner organizations who specialize in the topics covered in the episode.

ICRISAT’s Dr Kai Mausch and Ms Swathi Sridharan worked with Dr Njoroge and the show’s production company, mediae.org, on planning the episode’s content and messaging. The program was sponsored by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Tropical Legumes II project and features parts of an animation produced by the Innovative Communication Media and Methods project, funded by the McKnight Foundation. Besides its initial release in Kenya, the program will also be aired in Tanzania and Uganda in both English and Swahili.

The program with Dr Njoroge can be viewed online at: www.shambashapeup.com from 1 April.

Dr Njoroge during a field visit to the aflatoxin mitigation trials in Zambia.
Photo: E Musukwa

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Pigeonpea agronomy and pest management training conducted in Uganda

Participants of the training program examining pigeonpea crop in a farmer’s field. Photo: G Mutai, ICRISAT

With an objective to promote pigeonpea cultivation among smallholder farmers in Uganda, the Ngetta Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (NgeZARDI) in partnership with ICRISAT Nairobi conducted a training program on ‘Integrated pigeonpea management technology’ on 14 March in Lira, Uganda. Twenty-six participants, including research assistants from NgeZARDI and officers from agricultural extension and National Agricultural Advisory Services in four project target districts namely Alebtong, Kitgum, Lira and Pader, were trained in agronomy, disease and insect management.

Mr Yuventino Obong from NgeZARDI gave the participants an overview of the activities in the project areas. He mentioned that Uganda’s partnership with ICRISAT has led to the release of two pigeonpea varieties, SEPI-I (KAT 60/8) and SEPI-II (ICPL 87091). Currently, four medium-duration varieties (ICEAPs 00540, 00554, 00557 and 00850) selected through Farmer Participatory Varietal Selection (FPVS) trials are in their final year of National Performance Trials (NPT), while two of them are likely to be released soon.

Pigeonpea is a well-adapted crop in the project areas, but is faced with challenges in terms of pest management and availability of quality seed of improved varieties.

“Pigeonpea is an interesting crop in these areas owing to its high production, adaptability and multiple uses. We should therefore consolidate our efforts in promoting it,” said Mr Y Obong during the training.

Mr Ibrahim Shiundu and Mr Geoffrey Mutai, Research Technicians from ICRISAT Nairobi, emphasized on the importance of integrated approaches to pest and disease management including use of quality seed, early planting and timely farm operations, among others. Meanwhile, the participants highlighted the availability of fertile land for seed production, existing value addition techniques, rising demand for pigeonpea, and government intervention in crop promotion as major opportunities to increase pigeonpea production.

The ICRISAT team together with NgeZARDI officials also met with the members of the ALITO joint Christian farmers group which engages in production of quality-declared seed of various crops.

The session concluded with a talk show on the local radio Wa, featuring Mr Y Obong, Mr G Mutai and Mr I Shiundu as guests. Listeners were explained the objectives of ICRISAT’s partnership with NgeZARDI in promoting improved pigeonpea varieties in the region. One of the listeners, during the talk show testified over the phone, on the impact of the activities and ever-increasing seed demand of improved ICRISAT medium-duration pigeonpea varieties. He added that the varieties were high-yielding and early-maturing compared to their local landraces.

ICRISAT is currently leading the implementation of the Tropical Legumes II project in Uganda, and its activities in partnership with the EU - International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are spread all over Northern Uganda. NgeZARDI is a wing of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in Uganda.

The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

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ICRISAT Nigeria celebrates international women’s day with farmer groups

Women farmers at a demonstration on groundnut oil mill. Photo: A Inua, ICRISAT

With the theme ‘Inspiring change’, ICRISAT Kano, Nigeria along with the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) celebrated this year’s International Women’s Day.

During the celebration, the significant contributions made by smallholder women farmers and the transformative role they play in dryland agriculture were acknowledged. Speakers also thanked the ingenious and resourceful smallholder women farmers in helping the mission to achieve prosperous, food-secure and resilient dryland tropics.

ICRISAT in collaboration with Dandago Agricultural Machineries – Kano, also demonstrated at the event the maintenance and operations of the improved small-scale multipurpose groundnut oil milling machines and hammer mills. WOFAN also showcased the value addition of agricultural base products produced by the women groups.

Present during the celebrations were Ms Sadiya Sani Daura, Head of English Department, Bayero University, Kano; Ms Hajia Sa’a Ibrahim, Managing Director, Abubakar Rimi TV, Kano; Ms Hajia Ladi Mijinyawa, Chairperson, WOFAN; Ms Hajia Salamatu Garba, Coordinator, WOFAN; Mr Abubakar H Inuwa from ICRISAT Nigeria; and women farmers.

ICRISAT aims at empowering smallholder women farmers to overcome the unique hurdles they face in the semi-arid tropics, and thus securing the future of food production and economic growth. WOFAN’s mission is to fight hunger, poverty and sustain household food security through women in Northern Nigeria.

Both ICRISAT and WOFAN used the opportunity to renew collaboration on finding and disseminating scientific solutions to agriculture-based constraints to women groups.

Click on the link to see ICRISAT’s holistic approach to integrating gender into research for development

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CGIAR Fund Office consultant interacts with ICRISAT Nairobi team

Dr Beattie (Right) with Drs M Siambi and A Orr during the visit. Photo: C Wangari, ICRISAT

Dr Anthony Beattie, a senior CGIAR Fund Office consultant, interacted and held discussions with the ICRISAT Nairobi team during his visit to the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi campus on 13 March. Dr Beattie has been commissioned by the Fund Office to assist with the study on “A CGIAR Resource Mobilization Approach and Strategy: Possible Ways Forward and their Implications.”

At the meeting, Dr Moses Siambi, Director, Eastern and Southern Africa made a presentation on ICRISAT’s work on legumes in the region, while Dr Alastair Orr, Assistant Director, spoke on the importance of dryland cereals. Dr Beattie is due to present his report to the Fund Office in May, a report that will be a significant input on resource mobilization issues for the ongoing CGIAR Mid-Term Review (MTR).

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Policymakers to meet in Kigali, Rwanda on getting nutritious foods to people

On 31 March, more than 275 high-level stakeholders from government, business and civil society will converge in Kigali, Rwanda, for a three-day consultation on ‘Getting Nutritious Foods to People.’

HarvestPlus, a global program to improve nutrition and public health, has worked with partners to develop new varieties of nutritious food crops that provide more vitamin A, zinc, or iron. These crops – already being grown by more than a million farmers – have been conventionally bred. They include cassava, maize and orange sweet potato for vitamin A; beans and pearl millet for iron; and rice and wheat for zinc.

Studies have shown that these new varieties do provide nutritional benefits to consumers. “We’re just beginning to scratch the surface…we want to increase access to these nutritious crops as quickly as possible. Now is the time to bring partners together to figure out how we do this together,” says Howarth Bouis, the Director of HarvestPlus.  

The conference is being hosted by the Government of Rwanda. More than 500,000 Rwandan farmers have already planted new varieties of beans that are rich in iron. These new iron beans also yield many more tons per hectare than the local varieties, and the surplus can be shared or sold.

Keynote speakers include MS Swaminathan, the renowned father of India’s Green Revolution; Chris Elias, President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2013.

“The evidence is promising, and we now need to explore the potential for biofortification to enhance agriculture and food policies for nutrition,” says Jeff Waage, Technical Advisor to the Global Panel and Director of the London International Development Centre.

The invitation-only consultation will be livestreamed and moderated by Jeff Koinange, an award-winning Kenyan journalist and past Chief Anchor for Africa for Arise Television and CNN Senior Africa Correspondent. For more information, please visit the conference website (http://biofortconf.ifpri.info/).

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Maize germplasm with targeted trait portfolio displayed at field day

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) - Asia organized the International Maize Improvement Consortium (IMIC) - Asia maize field day at the ICRISAT headquarters on 15 March. The field day was attended by IMIC partners from both the public and private sectors.

The 900 entries on display during the event included inbred lines of early and advanced generations of maize along with some breeding populations and hybrids. This germplasm was bred for IMIC priority traits, namely, high seed yield, good standability, yellow/orange color, resistance to common foliar diseases, and tolerance to drought and heat. Some promising hybrid combinations along with their component inbred lines were also part of the demonstration.

Dr Swapan Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop Science), Indian Council of Agricultural Research was the event’s chief guest. Other dignitaries included Dr OP Yadav, Director, Directorate of Maize Research; Dr BM Prasanna, Director, Global Maize Program; Dr Etienne Duveiller, CIMMYT Regional Representative and Director for South Asia; and Dr Vibha Dhawan, Deputy Director, Research Partnership & Coordination, Borlaug Institute for South Asia.

Participants of the field day. Photo: CIMMYT

Of the 90 participants at the event, 55 were from 31 different private companies and 35 were from 20 public institutions (all part of the All India Coordinated Research Project on Maize). The activity was organized by the CIMMYT team composed of BS Vivek, PH Zaidi and AR Sadananda. CIMMYT-Asia is being hosted by ICRISAT at its headquarters in Patancheru.

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